Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail: Did Immigration Cause Brexit?
Sciences Po LIEPP Working Paper
Paris : Laboratoire interdisciplinaire d'évaluation des politiques publiques
Sciences Po LIEPP Working Paper : 100
Political Economy, Voting, Migration, Brexit, EU, UK
Can large immigration inflows impact electoral outcomes and specifically, what impact did immigration have on the vote in favour of leaving the European Union (Brexit) in the United Kingdom? In particular, I focus on how the increase in Polish immigration, the major group of immigrants post 2004, affected votes in favour of leaving the EU. I find a percentage point increase in Polish immigration to the UK to have caused an increase in votes in favour of Brexit of about 2.72-3.12 percentage points, depending on the specification. To obtain exogenous variation in Polish immigration, I collect data from the archives that reveals the location of Polish War Resettlement Camps after Word War II, which location is plausibly exogenous to current political outcomes. Discussing potential mechanisms, I examine public opinion data in the British Election Study 2015 and find evidence of adversity towards immigration to be a root cause. Other considerations such as the National Health Service (NHS), incumbency and the general trust in politicians as well as the political institutions seem not to play a role.